Thursday, October 8, 2020

Building Your School Calendar for Your Homeschool

 Homeschool is freeing, and that's one of my favorite things about it. There are so many options, even when it comes to building the calendar for the school year. Unless you're enrolled in an online school, you get to decide exactly how that calendar works.

We know homeschoolers that fall into three basic categories:

Year Round School: these homeschoolers definitely take breaks and don't do formal instruction 365 days a year. But they also don't worry about "first days" and "last days". They generally don't take one long break. When you're ready for the next "grade", you move on, but that could be in July or September or January.

Traditional School Year: these homeschoolers take the school calendar and follow it, at least to some degree. They have a first day of the new year around when the schools start in September, and a last day around the beginning of summer, with the summers "off". This schedule works really well for families who have a mix of kids in public or private school and kids who are homeschooled. 

Creative School Year: I've seen some really creative schedules. Some families do six weeks on, one week off (I've also seen some do eight on, two off) and maintain that during the year, with a few adding a slightly longer break in the summer. Some families take the entire month of December off so they can remove some of the stress and enjoy every bit of the holiday together. Some families build their homeschool calendar around travel, or sports, or whatever makes their family unique.

For our family, we find that following the traditional school calendar with a few deviations, works best for our family. This is for a few reasons:

1. The girls are both involved in activities that follow a school calendar. The dance year moves along with a school calendar, and the girls both are involved in summer sports and camps that are held during the day. 

2. The girls have a mix of friends who are both in public school and homeschooled. If we want to get together with our public school friends, it's easier to follow their schedule and have our days off together.

3. A school year is what I'm used to as a teacher, and although I don't need to follow it, I like the idea of beginnings and endings. I like taking the summer to prep and plan, I like having a first day when you really start the new grade, and I like having a last day. Fresh starts and goals to work toward is something that works for me.

However, we do this traditional schedule with a few twists. 

  • We school for thirty-six weeks. I like FULL weeks, so when I "count" a week, it starts on a Monday and ends on a Friday. I don't do ANY short weeks.
  • Our weeks are designed with four work days and one flex day. I do "count" the flex days, but all the work is scheduled for the other four days. A flex day might be a playdate at the park with other homeschool families, it might be a field trip, it might be our co-op or another class, or it could be a public school day off that we're using to have a play date with those friends.
  • I start and end early. By the end of August, my kids are typically ready for structure again. We usually start about a week before most kids, and we start with a full week. However, even with a few breaks, our thirty-six week curriculum will usually wrap up in mid-May, a few weeks before the schools in our area. The girls LOVE this.
One of the best things about homeschooling is getting the chance to figure out what works best for you and your family. It can take a little bit of courage to break from the "traditional" schedule, but it's liberating to know that you can!

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